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Whence Are the Kalanga (And the Question of Semitic Blood Addressed)

02 Dec 2013 at 09:55hrs | Views

Editor, last week I penned an article titled "Who are the Kalanga?" which, apparently, excited a lot of interest judging by the number of hits it attracted and the "shares" it got be it on Facebook, Twitter or Email. I would like to present to your esteemed readers this week a follow-up article, now answering the question: where do the Kalanga come from? The article will also address the sticky question of "Semitic blood that flows in the veins of the Kalanga." Please not that this article is made up of excerpts from Chapter Seven of my book: Lushanduko - The Rebirth of Bukalanga: The Long History and Future of the Kalanga-Nambya-Venda Nation, previous titled just "The Rebirth of Bukalanga". Because of the nature of the topic at hand, the article will be a bit longer than a "normal" article for an online news site. Into the article:

The Origins of the Kalanga

We probably by now already have a clue as to the likely origins of the Kalanga from reading the previous chapters. We heard from Professor Motshekga that the Kalanga originate in northeast Africa. Bakgalaka chief, Chief Mongatane of Polokwane claims Kalanga origins in Arabia. The Mwali Religion, which we have looked at in the previous chapter, gives us perhaps the biggest hint that shows North East African (NEA) and/or Ancient Near East (ANE) origins of the Kalanga. These are just the few hints that we have that tell us something of the origins of the Kalanga. But that is not all.

We have encountered a number of statements made by several writers from the 19th and 20th centuries claiming that in Kalanga blood flows Semitic and/or Jewish DNA, thus linking them with peoples from the ANE/NEA. Let us take a look at some of these statements, many of which we encountered in Chapter Five, beginning with Dr Theal. He wrote in 1907:

Of all the Bantu they [the Kalanga] had the largest proportion of Asiatic blood in their veins … Their skulls more nearly approached those of Europeans in shape, many of them had the high nose, thin lips, and the general features of the people of South-Western Asia. Even their hands and feet were in numerous instances small and well-shaped, unlike those of ordinary blacks, which are large and coarse. Their appearance thus indicated a strong infusion of foreign blood, though not sufficient to denationalize them as Bantu. That blood may not have been Arab alone; it is likely that some was Persian, and possibly some Indian (Theal 1907, 297).

Following Dr. Theal's statement we have that of Messrs Hall and Neal. They wrote in 1904:

[Among the Kalanga can be seen] unmistakable traces of these [Semites] still remaining to this day, and these are to be seen in the arched noses, thin lips, and refined type of Semitic countenance commonly met with, especially among the Makalangas and Zambesi tribes, the Jewish rites, particularly with regard to food, the superior intelligence and calculating capacities and business instincts, the metallurgical cleverness still in vogue, and knowledge of astronomy, and the polytheistic faiths learned from the ancients, and still preserving several distinctly Semitic practices (Hall & Neal 1904, 114).

Earlier in 1892, the excavator Mr. J. T. Bent had written travelling on his way through what is now Zimbabwe:

Some of [the Kalanga] are decidedly handsome … many of them have a distinctly Arab cast of countenance, and with their peculiar rows of tufts on top of their heads, looked en profil like the figures one sees on Egyptian tombs. There is certainly a Semite drop of blood in their veins, whence it comes will probably never be known, but it is marked both on their countenances and in their customs (Bent 1892, 31-32).

In 1902, the German colonialist Dr. Carl Peters also made his observations and recorded in his book, The Eldorado of the Ancients:

I have observed the Makalanga during the six months I spent amongst them with great interest, and I have studied their manners and customs … As regards their blood, they belong essentially to the Bantu tribes of East Africa, but they have a stronger influx of Asiatic blood than any other nation which I know. Their type is not so much Arab, for they are decidedly Jewish … Many of the men are tall and strong - real Bantu figures. Then, again, one sees small forms with very refined, clever expressions; … The girls are prettier than those of most Bantu tribes, and at Misongwe they remind you of European ladies (Peters 1902, 121-124).

The last record that we have is that of S. M. Molema in his book, The Bantu, Past and Present. He wrote in 1920:

The Makalaka had perhaps more infusion of foreign blood than any other Bantu tribe. From the earliest time, the Asiatics who traded in East Africa, and later the Portuguese, freely mixed their blood with them - producing a mongrel race, neither Asiatic, European, nor African (Molema 1920, 68).

It is easy to dismiss the above statements as nothing more than European racist verbiage meant to 'prove' that indeed there has been an ancient Semitic race that established the Zimbabwe Civilization; or that it is nothing more than a divide and rule strategy that sought to find non-existent differences amongst African races. It has indeed been stated by Professor David Beach that "a great deal of speculative writing has been published by unscientific writers who claim to see [among the Lemba] the descendants of early Muslim Arabs, pre-Muslim Arabs or even Jews √¢‚Ǩ¬¶ These claims, however, are swiftly reduced to the 'not proven category'" (Beach 1994, 183). That, of course, was 1994, before there was any scientific evidence to prove the writers cited above correct. We turn to that evidence, which, admittedly, focused only on one of the Twelve Tribes of Bukalanga - the Lemba.   

Evidence for a Semitic Ancestry of BaLemba

In a 1996 DNA study, which involved the Lemba, Semites from South Arabia, the Bantu in Africa and Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, Professor Parfitt and his University of London colleagues established a DNA match between the Lemba and people in the Hadramaut region of Yemen. Particularly surprising about the findings of that research was the discovery that members of the most senior Lemba clan - the Bhuba - displayed the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH), which is a distinctive feature of Jewish priesthood - the Kohanim. Furthermore, this genetic pattern is carried by the Y-chromosome, meaning that it is passed through the male line. The DNA also suggested that more than fifty percent of the Lemba Y chromosomes are Semitic in origin. In fact, surprisingly, the Lemba carry a larger CMH strain than the Ashkenazim and Sephardim (Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews).

A subsequent study in 2000 by the American Society for Human Genetics confirmed the findings of the 1996 study, further establishing the existence of the Y-DNA Haplogroup J, a DNA strain which is found amongst Jews and in other populations across the Middle East. The 2000 study also found that there is no Semitic female contribution to the Lemba gene pool.

The study, titled Y Chromosomes Traveling South: The Cohen Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba-the "Black Jews of Southern Africa" after detailing the scientific data, went thus:

The genetic evidence revealed in this study is consistent with both a Lemba history involving an origin in a Jewish population outside Africa and male-mediated gene flow from other Semitic immigrants (both of these populations could have formed founding groups for at least some of the Lemba clans) and with admixture with Bantu neighbors; all three groups are likely to have been contributors to the Lemba gene pool, and there is no need to present an Arab versus a Judaic contribution to that gene pool, since contributions from both are likely to have occurred. The CMH present in the Lemba could, however, have an exclusively Judaic origin. The female contribution to the Lemba gene pool may be very different from the paternal, although still consistent with Lemba oral tradition. Soodyall (1993), analyzing mtDNA, found no evidence of Semitic admixture. Significantly, more than one-quarter of the Lemba sampled by Soodyall et al. (1996) had the African intergenic COII/tRNALys 9-bp deletion. Our study provides no evidence of a specific contribution from the ancestors of the present-day [Arabic] residents of Sena (Thomas, et al 2000, Online).

We certainly can no longer say that claims of 'Semitic blood in the veins' of Kalanga are far-fetched, they are something close to reality, as the findings above indicate, even though, admittedly, the study only focused on the Lemba and not all the Twelve Tribes of Bukalanga. Where the Semitic-African blood admixture occurred which resulted in the Bantu-Semitic Kalanga, we perhaps may never know.

The admixture would explain the comparatively dark skin of the Kalanga as a whole. That there are dark-skinned people of Jewish and/or Semitic stock may of course be a bit difficult for some people to accept owing to the worldwide prominence of white Ashkenazi Jews, which has led many to assume that all Jews are typical white people. The whiteness has been attributed to admixture of Jewish blood with white European blood. In fact, between 30% and 60% of the genetic profile of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews has been found to belong to white European populations. On the other hand, among the priestly Bhuba clan of the Lemba, there is a 53% occurrence of Jewish DNA, far more than in some white Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

The challenge that we may face is to answer the question that always arises whenever Jewish identity is under discussion, that is, who and what is a Jew? Has "Jewishness" got to do with religious observance and belief, or has it anything to do with race and ethnicity? This book takes the position that it has to do with both: Jewishness is both ethno-racial and religious. On the religious front, we established in the previous chapter that Mwali'sm, the pre-Christian Kalanga religion, is an Abrahamic, and indeed Yahwe'ist/Judaic religion.

On the ethnic front, genetic science has established that Jewish people the world over share a similar DNA strain, pointing to origins in a common population in the Ancient Near East. A combination of these two factors - the religious and the ethno-racial - leads us to one conclusion: the Kalanga originate in the Ancient Near East, or at least the male line thereof, for that is the origin of the Semitic races. How they ended up landing in Southern Africa is the question we now turn.

The Ancient Near East Origins of the Kalanga and the Semitic Blood

It is probably a fact of history that we will never know how the Kalanga originated in the Ancient Near East and ended up in Southern Africa. Because of that, we can only theorize on how our Fathers may have ended up landing here in Southern Africa from so many miles away. I believe that we may have two possible scenarios to explain the creation of a Semitic-Bantu Kalanga race, indeed a Great Nation. These are:

1.    The Kalanga may, like the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews), be descendants of the Israeli Tribe of Dan, arising from a southward Jewish migration during the Exodus; or during the 10th century civil war in the Kingdom of Israel between Jeroboam and Rehoboam; or departing from Israel in about 720 BC when the Assyrians besieged and sacked the Kingdom of Israel, driving thousands of their number into exile.  

2.    The Kalanga may be descended from the Phoenician and Jewish sea-faring traders from Solomon's era about 900 BC, leaving in Hiram King of Tyre's ships in search of gold in the famed Biblical land of Ophir from whence enormous quantities of gold were obtained.

Had it been that we are dealing just with a case of general Semitic DNA, we would need not worry ourselves about many theories and possible scenarios. We would simply say the Semitic DNA is to be attributed to Arab traders who for many centuries lived and traded in the Kingdom of Bukalanga. But what we are faced and dealing with here is a specific case of Jewish DNA, not just Semitic DNA which could be Arabic, Phoenician, etc.   

Let us now take a look at the two possible scenarios posited above.     

Descendants of the Tribe of Dan with the Beta-Israel or Ethiopian Jews    

There are several traditions and theories about the origin of Ethiopian Jews today, but the most commonly accepted is one that links them to the Israeli tribe of Dan. Their story, as extracted from Wikipedia, is as follows:

The tribe of Dan tradition relates that the Beta Israel are descendants of Eldad ha-Dani, a Danite Jewish man of dark skin who suddenly turned up in Egypt in the 9th century and created a great stir in the Egyptian Jewish community (and elsewhere in the Mediterranean Jewish communities among whom he traveled) with claims that he had come from a Jewish kingdom of pastoralists far to the south. The only language he spoke was a hitherto unknown dialect of Hebrew. He carried Hebrew books with him that supported his explanation of halakhah [that is, the collective body of Jewish religious laws, customs and traditions], and he was able to cite ancient authorities in the sagely traditions of his own people. He said that the Jews of his own kingdom derived from the tribe of Dan, which had fled the civil war in the Kingdom of Israel between Solomon's son Rehoboam and Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by resettling in Egypt. From there they moved southwards up the Nile into Ethiopia, and the Beta Israel say this confirms that they are descended from these Danites (Adler 1987, 9).

Some Beta Israel, however, assert even nowadays that their Danite origins go back to the time of Moses, when some Danites parted from other Jews right after the Exodus and moved south to Ethiopia. Eldad the Danite does indeed speak of three waves of Jewish immigration into his region, creating other Jewish tribes and kingdoms, including the earliest wave that settled in a remote kingdom of the "tribe of Moses": this was the strongest and most secure Jewish kingdom of all, with farming villages, cities and great wealth (ibid., pp. 12-14). The Mosaic claims of the Beta Israel are clearly very ancient. Eldad's testimony is not the only mediaeval testimony to Jewish communities living far to the south of Egypt, which strengthens the credibility of Eldad's account as well. Rabbi Ovadiah Yare of Bertinoro wrote in a letter from Jerusalem in 1488:

I myself saw two of them in Egypt. They are dark-skinned … and one could not tell whether they keep the teaching of the Karaites, or of the Rabbis, for some of their practices resemble the Karaite teaching … but in other things they appear to follow the instruction of the Rabbis, and they say they are related to the tribe of Dan.

Some Jewish legal authorities have also asserted that the Beta Israel are the descendants of the tribe of Dan, one of the Ten Lost Tribes, that is, those tribes of ancient Israel that formed the Kingdom of Israel and which disappeared from Biblical and all other historical accounts after the kingdom was destroyed in about 720 BC by ancient Assyria. In their view, these people established a Jewish kingdom that lasted for hundreds of years. With the rise of Christianity and later Islam, schisms arose resulting in three kingdoms. Eventually, the Christian and Muslim kingdoms reduced the Jewish kingdom to a small impoverished section. The earliest authority to rule this way was Rabbai David ben Zimra (1479-1573). Ben Zimra explains in a responsum concerning the state of a Beta Israel slave:

But those Jews who come from the land of Cush are without doubt from the tribe of Dan, and since they did not have in their midst sages who were masters of the tradition, they clung to the simple meaning of the Scriptures. If they had been taught, however, they would not be irreverent towards the words of our sages, so their status is comparable to a Jewish infant taken captive by non-Jews.

Such are the origins of the Beta Israel, or the Ethiopian Jews. Whether they left the other Israelites in a southward migration during the Exodus from Egypt around 1300 BC, during the civil war which tore the Kingdom of Israel into two in the 900's BC, or between 730 and 720 BC when Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II of Assyria laid waste the northern Kingdom of Israel is another matter. What we know is that there definitely was such a migration from Israel into Africa. It is from that migration that the Beta Israel and the Ancient Near East ancestors of the Kalanga may be descendand.      

We read earlier in the book that the Kalanga originated in the Sudan-Egypt- Ethiopia region. Could it then not be the case that they also originated in this population, explaining the many not only Semitic, but Jewish DNA and Yahwe'ist religious practices and beliefs? It becomes more interesting to read of this possible origin in light of what Professor Motshekga said: that the Kalanga originated in Naphta in the Sudan. Is there not a possibility that this name Naphta has its origins in Naphtali, one of the tribes that accompanied the Tribe of Dan into the Sudan when the Kingdom of Israel was sacked by the Assyrians? It appears to be something a little more than coincidence.

Let us now turn to the second theory.  

Descendants of the sea-faring Phoenicians and "Solomon's Men"

We read in Lemba traditions that the Fathers came to the coasts of Africa in ships, possibly many millennia ago. We do not have any grounds for doubting or disputing this tradition bearing in mind that genetic science has proven that our Fathers originated in Semitic populations of the ANE. These origins and migrations may be traced to somewhere around 1000 BC. This would be in the era of the rise of the Phoenicians as a sea-faring people, and their travel with men of Jewish stock into far off lands in search of gold.

We are told in the biblical book of 2 Chronicles 8: 18 that "And [Phoenician King] Hiram sent [Solomon] ships commanded by his own officers, men who knew the sea. These, with Solomon's men, sailed to Ophir and brought back four hundred and fifty talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon."

Where was this Ophir? A number of possible locations have been cited, among them the Kingdom of Bukalanga, now Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. Argument for this posture is made in light for a number of factors, among which are: Arabian lands are not known to have had large quantities of gold as is mentioned as having been traded in the ANE; in the biblical text of 2 Kings 10: 11-15 the gold that came in the ships of Hiram is shown to be coming from other lands separate from those of the kings and governors of Arabia; and that the voyages took three years for the return journey, of which if Ophir was somewhere in Arabia, the ships would have returned in a matter of weeks.

If indeed what became the Kingdom of Bukalanga was the land of Ophir, and we cannot say it was not because the definite land has never been found, then the self-same Phoenicians and "Solomon's men" who knew the sea would be the Ancient Near East and Semitic ancestors of the Kalanga. They would have come millennia ago in those trade ships that earned the early Phoenicians the reputation of the greatest sea-farers of their time. Since the expeditions always went with them thousands of man and a fleet of ships, probably, on arrival in South East Africa, on the mouth of the Zambezi and Sabi Rivers in the Indian Ocean, they would have noticed gold in abundance on the sands of the rivers. Deciding that this was one of their greatest discoveries, some of their men would have settled there permanently, and the famous trade that would over the centuries catch the imagination of the Arabs, the Indians, the Chinese, the Persians, the Greeks, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British and Germans would have started.    

That each fleet would have had many men who could settle and indeed found a nation - probably intermarrying with the Bantu stock that they were finding on the east coasts of Africa - is not hard to appreciate when we come to a realization of how big an average expedition was. We find an example in the expedition of Hanno the Navigator to West Africa about 500 BC. The expedition left Carthage with 60 ships and a personnel complement of about 30,000 men. Perhaps, in those glory days of great Solomonic wisdom, such a fleet, with great pomp and glory, would have left the shows of the Red Sea on a great exploratory expedition to bring gold to the House of the Lord, after all, what other greater mission could be imagined than that. Was King Solomon not building the greatest house that the sons of man could ever imagine, and would not every last cent have been put into such a mighty work?

Perhaps, in such Phoenician expeditions, maybe climaxed in that one of history's greatest of expeditions which circumnavigated Africa about 600 BC, now sponsored by Pharaoh Neku II, but still led by the Phoenicians, we find by the eye of imagination, the earliest settlements of Kalanga Semitic ancestors Africa south of the Zambezi. Now in search of this gold, they would follow the Zambezi and the Sabi rivers, and finding this beautiful land, Edenic in its setting and climate, they settled. With no women of their own stock, they would have married in Africa, after all, they still knew the old command from their Fathers, "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth". And wasn't the promise to that one of the greatest of souls to ever walk this earth, Abraham, that his seed will multiply and be beyond counting like the sands on the shore and the stars in the sky? Were they not to be a blessing to the earth?

They may as well have carried on with the mission that the Patriarchs have always had, and perhaps, thus, the Great Nation of Bukalanga was born, a Chosen Nation, descendend from the very loins of Abraham, the Hebrew. They would now adopt the name the Kalanga - the People of the North - perhaps a corruption of the historic name of the Phoenicians - "Khna" or "Kinani". Perhaps not only that, they haven't forgotten the name of the Promised Land - Canaan. And who are we to say that Kalanga is not a corruption of Kinani, or Canaan? But, as if by Providence, they had found a new Kinani, and they would build it into the famous Kingdom of Bukalanga - the Greatest Civilization ever established Africa south of the Sahara - and they would re-establish the faith of the Fathers, Yahwe'ism, now called Mwali'sm. Without rabbis or scribes amongst them, they would hold on to the most bare elements of the faith, but still the Chosen People of God of Old.  

About them centuries later Rider Haggard would write in An African Romance, the "Makalanga are a strange folk. I believe their name means the People of the Sun; at any rate, they are the last of some ancient race" (Haggard 1906, Online). Perhaps, that ancient race is none other than the Chosen Race of the Hebrew Patriarchs, and the Kalanga, being descendents of the Patriarchs, are actually part of the Chosen People of God in whom lies the responsibility to be a blessing to Southern Africa. And maybe, it was by Divine Providence that our Fathers should end up in this region - to be a blessing to the nations, after all, wasn't that the original promise to our great Fathers back home in the Ancient Near East? And who is there to dispute that assertion.

We the Kalanga - BaLemba, Bakalanga, BaNambya, Bakgalaka/BaLobedu, BaLoyi/BaLozwi, BaTembe/Mthembu, BaShangwe, BaLembethu, BaTwamambo, Babirwa, BaTswapong, and Vhavenda - are Chosen People of God in Southern Africa. What better reason can we have to rediscover who we are, embrace our identity, our languages, our mission, our Nation? What reason to walk with backs straighter, heads higher and with a more strident march? Banhu ndiswi! Ke lona batho! Bathu ndirine! Yithina Abantu!    

Source - Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo
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